Heart Disease in Women

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthHeart disease may be considered by some to be more of a problem for men. However, it’s the most common cause of death for both women and men in the United States. According to the Center for Disease and Control, over 60 million women (44%) in the United States are living with some form of heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States and can affect women at any age. In 2021, it was responsible for the deaths of 310,661 women—or about 1 in every 5 female deaths.  Research has shown that only about half (56%) of US women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.

“Heart disease is a preventable killer, but it can’t be prevented unless you are aware of your personal risk factors,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “The first step in prevention is identifying what can make your heart unhealthy, such as untreated high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high levels of stress. Next, create a heart-healthy action plan. Schedule a check-up with your medical provider and take control of your heart health today.”

Several traditional risk factors for coronary artery disease — such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity — affect both women and men. But other factors may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women, which include diabetes, as women with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than are men with diabetes. Also, because diabetes can change the way women feel pain, there’s an increased risk of having a silent heart attack — without symptoms. Stress and depression also affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression may make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment for other health conditions.

Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Women under age 65 — especially those with a family history of heart disease — also need to pay close attention to heart disease risk factors. Living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of heart disease and below are a few heart-healthy strategies to help get you started:

• Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and dementia. High blood pressure has no symptoms—so it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly and report elevated readings to your health care team. Learn more about high blood pressure.

• Talk to your doctor or health care team about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.  Learn more about diabetes.

• Quit smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn ways to quit.

• Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Even short “doses” of activity are good for your heart.

• Make healthy food choices. Having overweight or obesity raises your risk of heart disease. Learn more about overweight and obesity.

• Limit how much alcohol you drink to one drink a day. If you’re pregnant, don’t drink any alcohol. There is no safe time for alcohol use during pregnancy. Learn more about alcohol.

• Manage stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with stress.

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